Classes Are Heading Outside and So Are These Products!

Spring is just around the corner and we are so excited that we just can’t hide it! The arrival of spring means we can finally welcome the beginning of warmer weather and longer days. We have all been searching and brainstorming for new ways to safely teach during the pandemic and this feels like the perfect opportunity to enjoy some time teaching outside. 

Bringing classes outside will be a new adventure for those that haven’t done it before. There are some great benefits to teaching outdoors. If you have heard the saying “fresh air is good for the soul” at one time or another, there is a reason for it. There have been studies done that explain the science behind that age-old saying, from an increase in the ability to concentre to feeling overall happier, fresh air really does us good! Being able to follow social-distancing practices in this Covid-19 world is just one more benefit to taking classes outside.  

Outdoor learning may also bring some hurdles that will need to be overcome, many of which we will learn about as we go. One problem that I anticipate is finding products around your classroom that can withstand the travel to and from, as well as the changes in atmosphere or difference in terrain. If you are lucky enough to be able to repurpose and reimagine products that you already have, that is a great place to start! By taking an item that is already available to you, maybe a Wood Stepping Stump Set, and using it as flexible seating for your class is a perfect example of reimagining a product. 

Educational resources like an Outdoor/Indoor Learning Centre are a wonderful tool to keep in your room. You can load it up with all the supplies you need to bring with you and it comes with a whiteboard, which is ideal for teaching lessons outside. The large wheels and handles make it easy to push over all sorts of terrain. For a miniature version, we have a Magnetic Tabletop Easel that can be used for one-on-one instruction or by individual students.   

While you are teaching, your students will need a place to sit and take notes. One of our favourite products is The Surf! This on-the-go work surface ensures you have a desk for your laptop or notebook wherever you need it. Both a seat and a surface, The Surf lets you work comfortably outdoors. For another option, our green or yellow sturdy plastic clipboards make writing outdoors easier to use while sitting on a durable Tatami Mat

If your class is ready for some free play fun, our Nature to Play line has everything you need – and then some more! There are many different options to choose from, one of our favourites includes the Water Table. Fill the two large basins and unlock endless hours of outdoor sensory explorations. From water and sand to shaving cream and slime, this table’s large work surface encourages messy, collaborative play and social interactions.  

Another popular choice is our Mud Kitchen, where children can inspire their growing imaginations by baking a mud pie or mixing up some leaf soup! Use the Mud Kitchen’s large work surface and sink with a removable plug to incorporate messy materials such as mud, sand, and water into collaborative outdoor play. For more fun, store mud tools, buckets, and Nature to Play Crates on the convenient bottom shelf.  

We hope that this inspires all of our wonderful teachers to take on the challenge of outdoor learning. We would love to hear how you take your classes outside!

Play Promotes a Healthy Mind & Body

Our Canadian winters can be beautiful…but also cold! When the temperatures start to dip below freezing, it can become far too easy to spend all of our time inside. Since the winter weather tends to keep children indoors more often, it is important that we continue to make time to be active and play. When outdoor learning is reduced and we start to miss that fresh air (and that wonderful Vitamin D) it becomes extra important to keep both our bodies and minds active. The winter blues affect people of all ages and that includes our littles! 

A great way to battle the blues is by making sure we keep our bodies moving. Kids learn through play, and as a result they experience many benefits which have proven to improve mental and physical health. In fact, play is so important that the United Nations has recognized it as a specific right for all children!

Encouraging unstructured play is an excellent way to increase physical activity levels in children but we know it can become difficult to keep conjuring up fresh and exciting ideas to keep your class active. Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves to help you out!  

When children engage in dramatic play, whether that be by playing dress-up or serving yummy food in a pretend kitchen, they are learning to create and explore a world that promotes social interaction skills, language development, and teaching conflict resolution.  

  • For a bright and colourful addition to your dramatic play area, New Sprouts has a wide range of items made specifically for active imaginations. 
  • A good set of Baby Dolls to play with can have many rewards for toddlers and children who play with them! They can lead to a better understanding of…themselves! 
  • Putting on a good Puppet Show with your favourite set of puppets is a wonderful way to get those creative juices flowing. 

There are also more calming ways to be active, as mentioned in our Children & Mindfulness blog. Practicing yoga is always a great place to start because of the positive impact it can have on children’s well-being, such as improving the ability to process emotions or boosting self-esteem. 

  • What better way to introduce yoga than with our Body Poetry Yoga Cards. These cards are split into three levels of easy, intermediate, and challenging to meet your children’s needs!
  • Cultivate health and wellness with this Healthy Body, Healthy Minds Activity Set of beautifully illustrated and simply written yoga cards. 

All of these ways of playing provide an outlet for children to practice skills that can help them in one way or another. It may be by teaching them how to properly communicate their feelings or by getting those endorphins boosted through physical activity, but each form of play has a positive impact on those developing brains which will lead to a healthier mind and body in the long run. 

It’s Parachute Day!

Remember what it was like to escape under a world of colour?

To pump your arms as hard as you can, then dash under the parachute and trap the air inside.

Looking around at your classmates’ faces beaming in the red, blue, green sunlight streaming through the cloth. Giggling as your hair grew staticky and groaning when your teacher said it was time to stand up.

Then doing it all over again.

There is something magical about parachute play. It seems so unconventional compared to traditional phys-ed exercises. Kids aren’t racing or trying to score goals; they’re just having fun. The non-competitive play is very inclusive, so different abilities don’t matter.

That’s not to say parachute play isn’t great exercise. You can include cardio and work on perceptual motor skills. The games develop rhythm and strengthen shoulder, arm and hand muscles. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to shake up traditional teaching methods. Parachute play encourages cooperation, turn-taking and sharing and how to follow directions.

We all love parachute day, but what to do besides waving it around? Here are 5 activities to combine parachute play with learning and exercise:

1. Mushroom or Igloo

The classic parachute game! Hold the parachute taut, lower it, then raise it quickly and duck under it. Sit on the inner edges to trap the air inside.

2. Treasure Hunt

Make waves with the parachute and call out a child’s name and an item. They have to dash underneath and find that item before the parachute comes down and “tags” them. The treasures can be anything you’d like, from toys or prizes to letters or numbers.

To practice the alphabet, place Alphabet Building Blocks or Alphabet Bean Bags underneath and have the children retrieve the letter you call out.

3. Make it Musical

Act out some of your favourite Nursery Rhymes using parachutes. Kids can sing along as they follow the directions in the song. KidsMusicExperience has some amazing videos demonstrating how to perform these with your kids.

4. Switch

Kids run under the parachute and switch places with one another. The criteria for switching is completely up to you! You can pick birthday months, letters of first names or favourite colours.

For a little math practice, you can number each child and have them switch places with whoever has the same number. You could have all the odd numbers swap or even practice greater than/less than.

5. Popcorn

Place a bunch of light balls on the parachute and try to get them all to bounce off. You can play this as a group or split everyone up into two teams. One team tries to get the balls off and the other tries to keep them on.

Bonus: Parachute play can be just as fun for bigger kids too! It’s a great way to teach about static electricity, force and motion dynamics, and air pressure.

Static: Place a child underneath the parachute and have the other students drag the fabric back and forth over their head. When they lift the parachute, the static electricity will cling to the child’s hair and make it stand on end.

Force and Motion: Touch on the basic concepts of physics with how you’re able to make the parachute ripple small or big waves depending on the force exerted, and how the tension affects the motion. Add balls and other objects on top of the parachute to shop how force travels and dissipates.

Air Pressure: The classic Mushroom or Igloo activity is perfect for this. Why is the parachute staying inflated? How do we create the differences in air pressure? What happens when the air pressure equalizes?

When it comes to picking a parachute, it really depends on your needs.

We recommend the Rainbow School Parachutes With Handles. It comes in 3 sizes, with sturdy handles and a rope around the edge for additional hands. For even more parachute activities, check out 3-2-1: Time For Parachute Fun for fun ideas, or the Parachute Accessory Pack for everything you need, including balls of different sizes, beanbags, dice and more.